PIKEVILLE – The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has granted Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) a Certificate of Need (CON) for additional acute beds, which will expand PMC to a 340-bed facility.

For patients, the addition of beds means they can stay close to home and receive quality care in their own community. They are not forced to travel miles away for care, saving them time and money.

Patients can continue receiving care from their own physician in the hospital with whom they are already familiar and the patient’s family and friends can be close by for support.

PMC’s additional beds were approved by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services following a six-day public hearing in Frankfort. The final order approving PMC’s CON application was issued by Leslie C. Bates, administrative law judge. Judge Bates’ opinion contained his findings, as well as the ruling.

A CON is a legal document required in many states, including Kentucky, before proposed acquisitions, expansion or creations of facilities are permitted. Its purpose is aimed at keeping health care costs low while allowing new services and construction.

The State Health Plan sets standards for services and takes public policy concerns into account, which licensure alone does not accomplish.

Twenty beds from inpatient physical rehabilitation will be converted to acute care beds with another 40 acute care beds added bringing PMCs total bed count to 340.

The CON approval came despite strong opposition from a number of area hospitals, including Tug Valley Appalachian Regional Hospital (ARH), Whitesburg ARH and Highlands Regional Medical Center.

The 49-page decision states that PMC’s growth has increased in recent years. PMC is the only Level II Trauma Center in the state, it has the only Level II NICU in its service area, and the Heart and Vascular Institute has seen a 160 percent increase in open heart surgeries since 2015. All of this results in a greater need for acute care beds for PMC.

The report notes that the number of patients being transferred to PMC from other facilities has also increased significantly since receiving Level II Trauma status. The findings show that PMC receives a high number of transfers from many hospitals throughout its service region, including the hospitals that opposed PMC’s request for more beds.

In addition to trauma patients, hospitals continuously transfer patients to PMC to receive services they do not offer. The ruling notes, that opposing hospitals Highlands, Whitesburg ARH and Tug Valley ARH all transferred patients to PMC for a higher level of care.

On January 9, 2018 PMC received emergency approval from the CON Office to operate 40 additional acute care beds in an emergency circumstance. According to CON regulation, emergency circumstance means a situation that poses an imminent threat to life, health or safety of a citizen of the Commonwealth.   

“Our growth clearly shows the need for additional beds at PMC,” said CEO Donovan Blackburn. “We operate at close to capacity many days. This ruling will allow us to move forward and ultimately allows us to keep more patients at PMC. We do not want to turn patients away, forcing them to travel hours away, to the nearest hospital with acute care that rivals our own.”

The judge’s ruling showed PMC proved that its application met the State Health Plan criteria.

PMC established that its acute care occupancy rate published in the Kentucky Annual Utilization and Services Report was 86.9 percent in 2016 and 93 percent in 2017, which is higher than the target occupancy rate of 75 percent needed to satisfy the mandate set by the State Health Plan to add more acute care beds.

PMC performed an analysis projection of patient-day trends over a five-year timeframe using the past five years as a predictor of future trends. The projection demonstrated a need for 181 more beds by 2022, substantially more beds than the 60 which were requested.

The quality of services PMC provides, as well as its numerous accreditations and awards, were also considered in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ decision to grant the CON. The judge found that PMC is continually recognized as a health care leader in its region.

“As determined by Judge Bates, smaller hospitals in the region depend on PMC to be a receiving facility for patients who require more specialized services,” Blackburn explained.

PMC established the addition of 60 acute care beds was the most effective and economical way to meet the health care needs of the residents. It is prepared to and capable of carrying out the responsibilities involved with operating the 60 beds.

The judge noted in his opinion that PMC appears to stand alone with regard to the level of service it provides. Because Eastern Kentucky is relatively isolated geographically, it is important for people to have access to both community hospital services and the more specialized services provided at PMC. CEO of Highlands, Harold C. Warman, Jr., testified he thinks “everybody recognizes that Pikeville is a valuable asset in the region. They offer certain services that some of the smaller community hospitals do not offer.”

“PMC serves as a referral center for the entire region offering a broader scope of services at a higher level,” said Blackburn. “Our hospital is fully staffed with talented, skilled specialists who are available 24/7. Other hospitals in the area do not offer the specialty services or the advanced equipment we provide.”

Over the past 93 years, PMC has grown from a rural 50-bed hospital to a 340-bed regional referral center encompassing more than one million square feet on its main campus.

“This increase in bed capacity will allow us to provide highly specialized care to more people, keeping them close to home,” Blackburn said. “We are pleased to continue to be a leader in health care for Eastern Kentucky. I am very proud of our ability to serve the needs of our community.”

PMC demonstrated that it is committed to making high-quality specialty services available to meet its patients’ needs, so they can receive their health care locally. Judge Bates concluded that PMC strives to provide optimal facilities, state of the art equipment, qualified and satisfied staff, and specialized physicians to deliver care.

For additional information about Pikeville Medical Center visit www.pikevillehospital.org or call (606) 218-3500.